SpaceX's robotic Dragon capsule has come back to Earth, wrapping up a successful monthlong cargo mission to the International Space Station.
The Dragon spacecraft splashed down Tuesday (Feb. 10) at 7:44 p.m. EST (0044 GMT Feb. 11) in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California. The unmanned capsule had departed from the space station about 5 1/2 hours earlier, at 2:10 p.m. EST (1910 GMT).
SpaceX launched the Dragon capsule toward the space station on Jan. 10, using its own Falcon 9 rocket to loft the spacecraft. Two days later, Dragon delivered more than 5, 000 lbs. (2, 268 kilograms) of food, scientific experiments, spare parts and other cargo to the station. The capsule brought 3, 700 lbs. (1, 678 kg) of scientific supplies and other "down cargo" back to Earth Tuesday, NASA officials said. (Dragon is the only robotic spacecraft operating today that can return supplies to Earth; other vehicles are designed to burn up in the atmosphere.)
California-based SpaceX holds a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to fly 12 cargo missions to the space station using Dragon and the Falcon 9. The company has now completed five of these flights, all of them successful.
Another aerospace firm, Virginia-based Orbital ATK, secured a $1.9 billion deal to make eight resupply flights to the station for NASA using its Cygnus capsule and Antares rocket. The first two missions went well, but the third, in late October 2014, ended just seconds after liftoff when the Antares exploded.
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